If you’ve read the original book Sex and the City, you’ll know that it is nothing like the television series.
It’s nothing to do with female friendship. It is an episodic series of vignettes – obviously, considering its newspaper-column format – about women in New York. Women who do not know or like each other. Carrie Bradshaw is a minor character who turns up occasionally at parties and is known for being needy with boyfriends.
So, when I first saw the TV programme (I was lucky enough to watch an advance tape of it when I was interning at Time Out!), I was surprised but pleasantly so. Soon, like all women my age and a bit older, I loved it. You know, what’s not to love? I too have a close group of girlfriends and love clothes – it’s great to see a glossy version of yourself on the screen.
And that’s where (at least in the early days – don’t get me started on the movies) the strength lay in SATC – it was like watching the movie star version of yourself and your friends. Everyone loves having the ‘which character are you?’ discussions about that sort of thing.
So, even though lots of people seem to think it’s a pointless cashing-in exercise, I think the concept of The Carrie Diaries fits in perfectly. I was intrigued to see where Carrie came from, how she became ‘Carrie Bradshaw’ and met the others.
Rather fascinatingly, I thought, Candace Bushnell seems to have grown fond of the characters in the same way that we all have. Rather than the icy-cool New York tales that she usually writes, this is a really warm nostalgia trip that is much more like the group of friends in the TV series. It’s almost impossible to read without picturing a young Sarah Jessica Parker in the role, looking just like she did in classics such as Girls Just Wanna Have Fun.
It’s a two-parter – book one covering Carrie’s last year at high school in her home town, and book two, Summer and the City, travelling with her to New York for a writing course before starting university.
While the second book gets more exciting – when she starts to become the glamorous, starry New York character we recognise – I actually preferred the first for its ordinariness. It reminded me of the slightly-out-of-date 80s teen books I used to read in my early teens – Judy Blume, Caroline B. Cooney and Paula Danziger.
It was great to see Carrie transform from the standard schoolgirl – wearing jeans, writing for the school newspaper, competing on the swimming team and obsessing over smalltown boys and friends – to a girl who runs around Manhattan in her grandmother’s feathered hat and a vintage Chinese robe, knocking out plays on her typewriter and dreaming of being a star.
It’s a transition that we all had in some way or another at that age, even if we don’t all grow up to be played by SJP – and, who knows?, we still might yet.